Asia: UN rights expert welcomes release of Canadian pastor in North Korea

A United Nations human rights expert has welcomed the release of Canadian Pastor Hyeon Soo Lim, who had been detained in North Korea since February 2015.

Geneve, Aug 10, 2017.- “I am delighted by Pastor Lim’s release from prison on humanitarian grounds. He is among several foreign nationals who have been arrested in the DPRK in the past couple of years and given a harsh sentence,” said Tomás OJEA QUINTANA, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

Mr. Lim was sentenced in December 2015 to hard labour for life for allegedly plotting hostile acts against the State.

Six South Koreans and three US citizens are currently detained in DPRK. Otto Warmbier, a US student who had been held for 17 months, was released in June in a coma and died within days of being flown home to his country.

The Special Rapporteur said the situation of the remaining prisoners should be closely observed.

“I am concerned by reports that detainees are not receiving due legal process and are being held in inhumane conditions,” Mr. OJEA QUINTANA said.

“The State is obliged to provide foreigners with access to consular support and an interpreter, but these entitlements cannot be taken for granted based on the information I have been receiving,” he noted.

The release of Mr. Lim on 9 August comes at a time of heightened tensions in the region, with leaders in DPRK and the United States exchanging threats of direct military confrontation.

“These threats divert attention from the situation of ordinary North Koreans, whose subsistence and protection needs should be treated as an absolute priority,” the expert warned.

“A climate of peace and cooperation is fundamental to bringing these issues back into focus, and recent calls for dialogue need to be translated into concrete gestures,” he added.

The Special Rapporteur will present his annual report during the General Assembly in October 2017.

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